The traditional family pantomime at Norwich Theatre Royal is Sleeping Beauty this year… but expect the only dozing to come from the stage because you’ll be far too busy laughing!
The show begins with a Madness-themed ensemble set in 1917… a premise that only seasoned Theatre Royal Panto writer and director Richard Gauntlett could have a) dreamed up and b) gotten away with, and you can be sure that wonderful, hilarious madness is a running theme from then on.
This year’s Panto leads you in more gently than I remember in previous years, with Derek Griffiths (‘Chortwood’ the Butler. Name reminds you of something? You’ll discover why later… one for Dr Who nerds) setting the scene in a surprisingly restrained fashion. Glenn Adamson is marvellous as the story’s ‘main man’ Timothy Norbridge – his voice is wonderful.
And then Richard Gauntlett (‘Mrs Midges’) and Ben Langley (‘Muddles Midges’) take to the stage and it’s downhill from there (uphill? Well, whichever is the better). I defy even the most serious member of the audience to keep a straight face while these two are up to their cheeky comedy antics. I found myself grinning without any conscious effort whatsoever.
From about a quarter way in this became one of my favourite Pantos of recent years – borne out by the fact that the time absolutely flew by. Although that may have had something to do with a well-known time machine perhaps?
The cast are outstanding. Derek Griffiths got better and better as the show went on, and was simply first-rate. Glenn Adamson and Elizabeth Carter (“Patience Midges, our ‘Sleeping Beauty’) have beautiful voices and brought so much energy and joy to their roles. Gillian Wright was an excellent and hilarious ‘baddie’, again getting better (or ‘badder’) as the plot unfurled. Stephen Godward is hilarious as Lord Teddy Norbridge.
But, not for the first year running, for me, it was the uproarious pairing of Gauntlett and Langley that stole the show. In ‘Millennial’ speak, they are my ‘favs’. How Glen Adamson could sing ‘Your Song’ without collapsing into fits while they frolicked about behind in a water fountain, ending in them getting absolutely soaked, is a miracle. And for a Dr Who geek like me, there is little funnier – or bang on topic – than Richard Gauntlett dressed as the newest Time Lord (Lady?). Someone please send Jodie Whittaker a snap of Mrs Midges dressed in what will be the 13th Doctor’s new outfit. It’ll surely make her day.
And then there’s the bell-ringing monks…
Aside from their general capering, highlights for our whole family (ages 5 through to um… a bit older) included the song and dance numbers – we particularly loved the ghostly ‘skeleton’ dance and the scene with the knights in the haunted castle. I also thought the sets and costumes were wonderful (loved the 1920s outfits… and the thorns!).
If you’re expecting the Disney version of the Sleeping Beauty tale, this ain’t it. However, the requisite familiar elements are there along with the sort of plot devices that, as I mentioned earlier, can only come from Richard Gauntlett’s mind.
I would happily see this again and know I’d still enjoy it thoroughly and laugh loads. Writing about it now is making me smile, in fact. If you and yours want a couple of hours of laughter, light and song this Winter, Sleeping Beauty at Norwich Theatre Royal won’t disappoint.
Altogether now… “I know you… I walked with you once upon a dream…”
Sleeping Beauty is on at the Theatre Royal in Norwich now until Sunday 14th January 2018.
Over 60s / Under 18s special pricing available / Under 3s FREE / Group discounts available.
For more information and booking visit the Theatre Royal website.